5 NBA Players Whose Careers Were Affected by Injury
1. Grant Hill
Grant Hill was a force to be reckoned with the moment he entered the league.
A highly touted collegiate player from Duke University, Grant would immediately serve the league notice as he posted an impressive 19.9 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 1.8 SPG and 5.0 APG. These were numbers comparable to Scottie Pippen's. Grant would go on to win Co-Rookie of the Year Honors with Dallas' Jason Kidd.
Grant brought new hope to the rebuilding Pistons who only had Joe Dumars as a holdover from the "Bad Boy" Detroit Pistons championship teams of the early nineties. The team was not as stacked as those Pistons teams and only had a few key pieces in Allan Houston, Lindsey Hunter, and Terry Mills. The team finished 28-54 but there was hope.
Grant was a cerebral individual and had good genes. He was a high basketball IQ player who always tried to make the right plays and make his teammates better. He had good stats but was in no way a stats hound who sacrificed wins in exchange for personal metrics.
Grant was the son of NFL player Calvin Hill. Calvin was remembered as a Superbowl VI champion with the Dallas Cowboys.
Grant would continue having superstar-like stats for the first six years of his career culminating in his sixth season where he averaged 25.8 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 5.2 APG, and 1.4 SPG. He would then get traded to Orlando in exchange for Chucky Atkins and Ben Wallace.
The Magic hoped to get one of the biggest free-agent coups of all time by signing the trio of Tim Duncan, Grant Hill, and Tracy McGrady. This would have formed a super-team immediately thrust the Magic into title contention. Unfortunately, Tim Duncan did not sign because Doc Rivers would not allow his family to travel in the team plane and Grant Hill would spend most of his days in Orlando in the injury list.
Grant had a career-altering ankle injury in Orlando and this would rob Grant of a lot of his explosiveness and athleticism. While no longer the superstar he once was, Grant had two good seasons in Orlando which were the 2004-05 season where he averaged 19.7 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 3.3 APG and 1.4 SPG and the 2006-07 season where he averaged 14.4 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 2.1 APG and .8 SPG.
After his stint in Orlando, Grant would spend five relatively healthy seasons in Phoenix where he was a key piece of the run and gun Suns. The Phoenix Suns medical staff is known to work wonders for injury prone players and Grant greatly benefited from this. His best season in Phoenix had him averaging 13.1 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 2.9 APG and .9 SPG.
Grant's final season was spent with the Los Angeles Clippers where a bruised bone in his right knee sidelined him for a significant period of time. Grant played sparingly and did not have much of an impact for the squad statistics-wise.
2. Anfernee Hardaway
Anfernee Hardaway for a time seemed like the second coming of Magic Johnson. "Penny" was a 6'7" point guard who had amazing court vision. He could easily pass over or shoot over his much smaller defenders. Penny was a match-up nightmare as he could easily bully smaller defenders because of his size and could evade much larger defenders with his quickness.
Penny had three healthy seasons for the Magic and he was a force in the Eastern Conference alongside teammate Shaquille O' Neil. The two were like the second coming of Magic and Kareem. With Shaquille O' Neil, Anfernee Hardaway, Horace Grant, Nick Anderson and Dennis Scott, the Magic had one of the best starting fives in the game. This made the Magic into perennial contenders.
In just his second season, Penny led the Magic to a postseason victory over the returning Michael Jordan and his Chicago Bulls. After dominating the East, however, the team fell to the mighty Houston Rockets and their superstar Hakeem, Olajuwon.
The Shaq-Penny duo only lasted for three seasons and Shaq moved on to the bright lights of L.A. This left Penny as the sole superstar of the team. Despite being injury-riddled for the season, Penny was still able to carry the Magic to the playoffs where they were eliminated by the Miami Heat in five games.
A Knee Injury Changed the Trajectory of His Career
Penny would have a career-altering knee injury in the 1997-98 season and had to have surgery on it. This robbed Penny of his explosiveness, and he was not the same player he was before.
The next season would be Penny's swansong with the Magic. Again, he led them to the playoffs. But, they were dispatched by the Allen Iverson-led 76ersin four games.
The Suns would then acquire Hardaway in the 1999 offseason for a package that included Danny Manning, Pat Garrity and two future first-round draft picks. The Suns hoped to form a star-studded backcourt with Penny and Jason Kidd. Due to injuries, however, the two were not able to play a lot of games together.
After two years, the Suns decided to scrap the Kidd-Hardaway experiment and pair up Penny with the mercurial Stephon Marbury. The two did not get along because of Stephon being a ball hog. This is shown in the team's lack of success.
The Suns acquired Joe Johnson in a trade with the Boston Celtics. This relegated Penny to the bench. Despite this, he still had some solid numbers. He still averaged 12 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 4.1 APG and 1.5 SPG.
In the 2003-04 season, Hardaway and Marbury were shipped to the Knicks in a multiplayer deal. The two would help provide veteran leadership to the team. Hardaway's knees began acting up again and he missed a slew of games in his second season with the Knicks.
After two years with New York, he was traded back to Orlando but was immediately waived by the team.
Penny would come full circle and team up with Shaq once again with the Miami Heat. He was just a role player now and not the same Penny that once teamed with Shaq to terrorize the Eastern conference.
Penny would retire after his lone season with Miami.
3. Tracy McGrady
Tracy was initially projected to be a lockdown defender in the mold of Scottie Pippen. Chicago even planned to trade Scottie Pippen for him in the 1997 NBA Draft had Michael Jordan not nixed the deal.
Tracy was not an impact player in his rookie season due to limited minutes as he was in the doghouse with coach Darrell Walker. When Butch Carter took over the reins after Walker resigned, McGrady got more playing time and improved upon his initial performance.
The very next year, the Raptors swapped Antawn Jamison for Vince Carter and McGrady found himself paired with his distant cousin. The two became the building blocks of the Raptors franchise and even helped the team secure a playoff berth.
The cousins would only pair up for two seasons as McGrady longed to be "the man." He did not want to be playing under Vince's enormous shadow.
McGrady got his wish in the summer of 2000 when the Orlando Magic signed him and fellow free agent Grant Hill. The Magic hoped to include Tim Duncan in their coup but Duncan backed out because Doc Rivers would not let his family go to games on the team plane.
Despite not landing one of the best power forwards of all time, the Magic still had a dynamic duo of Hill and McGrady. Unfortunately, Hill was frequently sidelined by injuries and the two barely played together.
This gave TMAC the opportunity to be the main man for Orlando. McGrady won the NBA Most Improved Player award and even won two scoring titles. Everyone knew TMAC was a defensive stopper à la Scottie Pippen, but nobody knew he could be a scoring machine.
McGrady spent four productive years with the Magic and had rebounding, assist and scoring numbers that could compare to Michael Jordan's. In his best season with the Magic, McGrady produced 32.1 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 5.5 APG and 1.7 SPG.
McGrady was so good that there were often comparisons between him and superstar Kobe Bryant. McGrady and General Manager John Weisbrod did not get along and this lead to McGrady getting traded to the Houston Rockets.
Houston had a star center in Yao Ming and hoped that the tandem of Ming and McGrady could replicate the success of Shaq and Kobe. The duo was surrounded by good pieces in the 2008 incarnation of the team. They had players such as Ron Artest, Shane Battier, Kyle Lowry and Dikembe Mutombo.
However, in the six years the duo spent together, they never got far due to injury issues.
After his stint in Houston, McGrady would just be a role player for the Knicks, Pistons, Hawks and Spurs. McGrady was close to his first championship with the Spurs but they chucked away game 6 and eventually lost in seven games.
4. Yao Ming
Yao Ming was a mountain of a man standing at 7'6." In a country where the average height of a Chinese man is 5'5," Yao truly stood out.
Even before stepping foot in an NBA arena, Yao was already an international superstar. He was part of the Chinese team which boasted three giants—Yao Ming, Wang Zhizhi and Mengke Bateer. These three formed the "Walking Great Wall."
While Yao was big even by NBA standards, skeptics such as Charles Barkley and Bill Simmons were not advocates for the seven-footer. They thought that he was too slow for the modern NBA.
When Yao was picked first overall by Houston in the 2002 NBA Draft, hopes were high for the prospect from mainland China. Yao would not disappoint as he averaged 13.5 PPG and 8.2 RPG while shooting nearly fifty percent from the field. He even blocked Shaq twice in their initial encounter and altered Shaq's shot a couple of times as well.
Injury After Injury
Yao had a short career with Houston, playing only nine years. His first three years were relatively healthy and the last six were injury-riddled. He even missed the entire 2009-10 season due to a fractured foot.
When he was healthy, Yao was a beast. His finest season was in 2006-07 when he averaged 25 PPG, 9.4 RPG, and 2 BPG.
What set Yao apart from most centers was his amazing footwork and his efficiency at the free-throw line.
Yao retired at the young age of 30. Injuries simply piled up and ruined the career of what could have been one of the top centers of all time.
5. Bill Walton
To today's fans, Bill Walton is a sports commentator for the Sacramento Kings and for the ESPN network. To old school fans, Bill was a near-seven-foot hippie who terrorized the defensive lanes and stifled any player that would cross paths with him.
The Portland Trailblazers drafted Walton with hopes that he would bring them to the promised land. Sadly, he only played a combined 86 games in his first two seasons.
Walton's third season was a revelation. He played 65 games and led the league in rebounding with a 14.4 RPG clip and blocks with 3.2 BPG. He also averaged 18.6 PPG. Walton with the guidance of coach Jack Ramsay crushed the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar led Lakers and upset the talented Philadelphia 76ers squad. The 1976-77 Philadelphia 76ers was a stacked team that had Julius Erving, Doug Collins, Darryl Dawkins, World B Free, Caldwell Jones and George McGinnis. The Blazers won their first and only championship despite trailing 0-2 to open the series.
After four years with Portland, Walton would play for the Clippers. He would still be a productive player but foot injuries hampered his time there. Despite this, he was still a force in blocks and rebounding.
Walton's last two seasons would be spent with the Larry Bird-led Boston Celtics where Walton would come off the bench as a key reserve and work his defensive wizardry against the opposition. Walton would win his second title in 1985-86 with his healthiest year in his career where he was the Sixth Man of the Year winner. In less than twenty minutes a game, he would average 7.6 PPG, 6.8 RPG and 1.3 BPG. He would play one last season and retire after that due to injuries.
Which NBA player had the greatest potential had they not been injury prone?
© 2018 Jan Michael Ong